March 16, 2012

Championship experience benefits BC in win over Friars

By Andrew Merritt

BOSTON – Boston College has been at the Garden almost too many times to count in the last 10 years. In that time, Providence hasn’t been here at all.

For both teams, it showed. 

Boston College forward Steven Whitney (Dave Arnold Photography)

The Eagles overcame an early deficit to beat Providence, 4-2, in the semifinals of the Hockey East tournament. Johnny Gaudreau’s second period goal gave the Eagles the edge they needed to win, and Steven Whitney scored midway through the third to ice it, sending BC to the Hockey East final for the 16th time, and the third time in as many years.

“I just thought one of the differences in the game was our immaturity in being in this type of environment, and (BC’s) maturity in being in this type of environment,” said Providence coach Nate Leaman, who in his first season behind the bench took the Friars out of the cellar and briefly into first place.

Paul Carey’s unassisted goal on a wraparound gave BC the first lead of the game just 1:15 in, but less than a minute and a half later, Barrett Kaib – who’d had his pocket picked by Carey on the first goal – scored on a feed from Andy Balysky to tie it.

With 4:33 gone in the first, Derek Army gave the Friars the lead – marking the second time BC had fallen behind in as many games after going 684 minutes and change without trailing to finish the regular season.

“We kind of came out and maybe didn’t execute as well as we wanted to throughout the game,” Leaman said. “But we got rolling there, we were down 1-0, and the guys showed a lot of character getting two quick ones.”

The Friar lead was short-lived, however. Destry Straight tied the game at 2 with 11:25 to go in the first, just over four minutes after Army had given PC the edge.

Three minutes and 58 seconds into the second period, Gaudreau put the Eagles up for good. On a power play, Carey fed Gaudreau in the right wing corner, and the freshman walked out into the slot, untouched. Beaudry bit on Gaudreau’s shot fake, and Gaudreau curled around to get an open look, and buried the puck for a 3-2 lead.

"We try not to let it affect us,” Carey said when asked about the Eagles coming back from the deficit. “We just keep a positive attitude and just keep pushing because it's a long 60 minutes and you don't win in the first period."

The Eagles thought they had a 4-2 lead with 7:28 left in the second, but the officials ruled after a video review that Steven Whitney had interfered with Beaudry while crashing the net as Barry Almeida’s odd-angle shot slipped in.

Whitney atoned for taking the goal off the board later. With eight minutes gone in the third, he gave BC the insurance goal back, jumping on Almeida’s rebound and backhanding it past a diving Beaudry.

The loss signals the end of the season for Providence, which doesn’t have any NCAA at-large hopes. The climb the Friars made in 2011-12 doesn’t take the sting off its finish, but their first appearance in the Hockey East semifinals since 2001 gives PC a sunny outlook for the first time in a long time.

“I think it was a proud moment for the program,” senior captain Danny New said. “Obviously our goal was to go further than tonight, but I think from a standpoint of the program, we made a lot of people proud and got ourselves back on track here.”